Moorcock wrote an essay in the Steampunk-focused issue of Locus Magazine where he said the following (quoted text via AncestralStars.com):
I said recently, in a review, that steampunk seemed so full of lords and ladies these days that it ought fairly to be called Steam Opera. To be honest I found most of the sub-genre boring almost as soon as it began to appear, just as I find most non-confrontational fiction boring.That Moorcock dislikes fiction intended to entertain without having a deep underlying message doesn't really surprise me all that much. His Bastable stories have a pretty darn clear message underneath them -- paternalism is a bad thing to have in the world, and those stories are how he shows the horrors that can result from it. His personal dislike of "escapist" fiction doesn't really bother me; after all, the man's entitled to his opinion. What more concerns me is that he says there's no worth in stories whose only goal is to be entertaining for the 10 or so hours we spend with them.
I hadn’t anticipated that so many readers would become enthusiasts for the romantic imagery of giant airships and so on and rather miss the point of the story which was, I hope, using science fiction to do what it does best and help us examine ourselves and our world in fresh ways. To see this method becoming again no more than another exercise in nostalgic escapism (my criticism of so much SF of the 1940s on) is a bit depressing and might help explain why I’m always trying to come up with new methods—with forms which will carry my ideas without the burden of nostalgia or escapism, allowing instrospection without being mere dreaming of some lost ‘golden age.’
I've seen this same criticism come up a lot though, from all corners of the literary sphere. When Lord of the Rings was voted one of the most influential stories of the 20th Century, I recall reading that literary critics the world over actually cringed in pain. According to many people in the literary world, literature that doesn't have a big old message isn't worthwhile.
Well guess what? I don't always want to have a message in the novels I read. Escapism has its value, particularly when you've had a horrid day and just want to ignore the world for a few hours. At that point, I don't want to read a novel that fictionalizes the struggle against communist apartheid in third world Eastern Europe; I just want one where the good guy beats the bad guy and gets the girl at the end.
That's my view at least, and of course you're all entitled to your own. Which of course leads me to wonder: Which fiction do read more of? Escapism or Message?